Obesity, stress causing rise of ‘adult’ illnesses in teens

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Obesity, stress causing rise of ‘adult’ illnesses in teens


Park, 18, went for a physical last month in preparation for military service. The results were shocking for a college freshman:

Park had high blood pressure and traces of blood were found in his urine.

“He eats a lot and doesn’t exercise,” said Park’s mother, 47, adding that although she has high blood pressure, she never expected it in her son. “I tell him to exercise but he doesn’t listen. I think it is partly my fault because I didn’t take care of him enough because I have a job.”

A growing number of teens are suffering from illnesses that, in the past, only affected adults. According to the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, last year teens who have hyperlipidemia, or excess amounts of lipids (or fat) in the blood, increased by 63.7 percent compared to 2005. A total of 12,703 teens in Korea last year had hyperlipidemia compared to 7,761 in 2005.

The increase in “adult” illnesses in children is due to obesity and stress, particularly pressure to get good grades in school and on college entrance exams, said Yu Han-uk, a professor of pediatrics at Asan Medical Center in Seoul. “There are many cases in which parents neglect these illnesses, putting the priority on their child’s academics first.”

Data by the service states that teens who suffer from metrorrhagia, or abnormal uterine bleeding, soared by 110 percent last year, compared to 2005. During the same period, the number of teens with irregular menstrual cycles skyrocketed by 100 percent while those with diabetes and high blood pressure increased by 16.8 percent and 9.1 percent respectively.

A 14-year-old boy, who declined to be named, went to the hospital earlier this year to seek counseling on ways to increase his height. After a checkup, he was diagnosed as obese: at 165 centimeters (5 feet 5 inches), he weighed 78 kilograms (172 pounds). Moreover, the boy had high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia and diabetes.

“When my son was a first-year middle school student, I learned from his school physicals that there were traces of sugar in his urine but I didn’t think much of it,” said the boy’s mother. “I didn’t think to take him to the hospital for a full checkup, worrying that it might disturb his studying.”

Many doctors say that female adolescents avoid getting treatment for problems with their reproductive organs. A 16-year-old girl, who declined to be named, said that although one of her menstrual periods lasted for a whole month, she didn’t tell her parents. She said she finally visited a hospital after coming down with anemia due to her irregular periods.

A medical counselor at Noowon High School in Seoul said, “Around 90 percent of female students [at the school] suffer from period cramps. To avoid them, one needs to eat a lot of minerals. To get rid of the pain, students take painkillers, which can cause gastritis.”

By Kim Min-sang [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
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10대 당뇨·고혈압 급증 … 혹시 우리 아이도?

올해 대학생이 된 박모(19)씨는 군 입대를 자원하기 위해 지난달 신체검사를 받았다가 크게 실망했다. 고혈압·비만에다 소변에 피가 약간 섞여 나온다는 진단이 떨어진 것이다. 박씨는 고교 때 받은 건강검진에서도 비슷한 증세가 있었다. 하지만 대학 입시 준비를 하느라 대수롭게 생각하지 않았다. 박씨의 어머니(48)는 “아들이 음식을 많이 먹는 데다 운동을 안 해 살이 쪘다”며 “내가 고혈압 증세가 있는데 애한테까지 그런 일이 생길 줄 몰랐다”고 말했다. 이어 “맞벌이를 하느라 애를 제대로 챙기지 못했다”며 한숨을 쉬었다.

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